Silicon Valley / Big Tech companies: are they orwellian? – a local insider’s view

On June 1, 2021, the Warsaw Institute think-tank had the honor of organizing the online event “Silicon Valley / Big Tech Companies: are their activities Orwellian towards their users and employees?” – a local insider’s view.” The guest of Tomasz Kijewski, president of the Warsaw Institute, was Mark A. Terlesky, senior legal analyst and writer at Pierce & Shearer LLP.

At the beginning of his career, Mark Terlesky worked in journalism, which allowed him to work for the Washington Times. Due to better professional and financial prospects, he decided to change the industry to law. So far, his legal operations have involved people like Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos and Larry Elison. The guest usually represents individual employees who want to assert their rights, usually large corporations are the opposite party in these matters.

Mark Terlesky also identified the transformation that has hit Silicon Valley over time. From a place inventing and producing novel electronic devices – it has become a type of mentality, a way of reasoning. Technology centers, very close to the original Silicon Valley, can also be found in Singapore and Tel Aviv.

Mark also briefed the history of the Silicon Valley. He pointed out that Hewlett and Packard are the main fathers of this industrial region, but there are also many other underrated pioneers overshadowed by the Hewlett-Packard (HP) partnership. About 2,000 companies are located in the Silicon Valley. In addition to robotics, computer hardware, medical equipment, social media companies and the press, important elements of the Valley are cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, and astronautics.

The most requested skills for Silicon Valley employers are software engineering and coding skills. Competition among employees is very fierce, but wages are correspondingly high. In tech corporations, it’s not the candidate’s level of education that matters, but talent and commitment. The guest gave the example of a genius 15-year-old programmer represented by his company, earning about 200,000 thousand dollars a year.

In the next part of the conversation, the president of the Warsaw Institute, Tomasz Kijewski, asked the guest about the average annual earnings of employees of corporations located in the Silicon Valley. Mark A. Terlesky pointed out that wages are much higher than in any other region of the United States – they are by 25-50% higher.

One of the last issues discussed during the interview concerned the problem of monopolies. Facebook has purchased approximately 70 rival and potentially rival companies, and Microsoft acquires an average of six companies per year. According to Mark Terlesky, we truly live in a world monopolized by the largest companies. For about six months, the US government has been trying to fight the problem, but corporations have too much power and influence, including political ones.

The penultimate topic of the discussion was that of life in the Silicon Valley. Mark Terlesky told the viewers of the Warsaw Institute about the luxuries and benefits that go hand in hand with working for companies located in the Valley. There are also noticeable disadvantages of being an employee of the largest companies – you can indicate non-standard, even 18-hour working days seven days a week, huge pressure or age discrimination are also common.
At the end, the guest of the event was asked if the actions of the Big Tech corporation could be considered “Orwellian” in a sense. Mark answered that we are becoming a society of post-truth, in which knowledge is built with a very broad censorship dependent on the line propagated by the world’s largest corporations.

Mark A. Terlesky, Senior Legal Analyst & Writer at Pierce & Shearer LLP (“P&S”) in San Mateo, California

Mr. Mark Andrew Terlesky is a Senior Legal Analyst and Writer at Pierce & Shearer LLP (“P&S”) in San Mateo, California, located between San Francisco and San Jose. P&S specializes in labor law on the claimant’s side, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, a hostile work environment, unlawful termination and breach of contract. Since 2008, the P&S advocacy teams Mark has worked for have assisted clients in / from many states in the US, as well as New Zealand, Singapore, the Philippines, India, Spain, France, Switzerland and the UK, and made him an attorney for over 100 employees from the Silicon Valley. His work has involved a number of iconic Big Tech companies (social media, electric cars, biotechnology, medical devices, etc.). Several cases also involved direct reports of Tim Cook, Larry Ellison, Eric Schmidt, and Palmer Luckey, as well as a member of the inner circle of Jeff Bezos’ leadership. In addition to his long legal career, Mark has worked in advertising, relational database development, and journalism. He holds a master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Tomasz Kijewski, president of the Warsaw Institute

Tomasz Kijewski graduated international relations at the University of Lodz (scholarship at the Center for Transatlantic Studies in Maastricht, the Netherlands) and post-graduate studies at the Military Academy in Warsaw. He is a graduate of National Security Study Program (PASS) at the European Center for Security Studies General Marshall (Garmisch-Partenkirchen / Washington DC). He completed a course at the International Energy Agency (Paris) and was an energy advisor in Calgary. Performing diplomatic duties, for many years he actively promoted Poland and the Polish diaspora in North America. His areas of interest include new forms of international conflicts (hybrid war, asymmetric conflicts), counteracting terrorism, energy security. Prepares a doctoral dissertation.

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